Last November, we lost a Barrie legacy.
Willard Kinzie, Barrie’s once mayor, passed away.
He was in his 100th year.
That in itself, is a legacy.
But all that he left behind, and all that his life encompassed, is a shining exmample of a life well lived.
I had the privilege of interviewing him once, for a TV-series I was doing while working at CKVR, on seniors living their best life.
He was well in his 80’s at the time, if memory serves me correctly, with a couple of titanium parts to boot.
I was interviewing him about his mountain climbing exploits, as he had some major expeditions under his belt.
We followed him to the gym where he worked out to keep in shape. It was incredible to watch him go through his routine. He had the body of a 40 year old.
Moving to Barrie in 1947, he purchased Lakeview Dairy and grew it to one of the largest independent dairies in Canada, acquiring 52 additional dairies over the next 25 years.
His career in politics began in 1952 when he became a Barrie alderman, then mayor in 1957 through 1961, during which time the town officially became a city in 1959.
He continued his interest in politics, even addressing the current city council on occasion.
Even though his political career was long past him, up and coming politicians in and around Barrie often sought out his advice and guidance.
That is something to be said for the respect they had for the man.
One of his legacies is the Waterfront Heritage Trail, which he used often. While in his 80’s, he worked tirelessly to develop and design the 6 kilometre trail which winds around the lakeshore. Today, a bronze cast of his hand print sits where the trail meets at Penetanguishene Road, offering a “high five” to anyone who passes by.
Born in 1919, he served with the Canadian Firefighters, stationed in Portsmouth during the Battle of Britain.
After moving to Barrie, along with running his dairies, he also ran a large restaurant, and opened one of the first Canadian KFC franchises. And, according to his obituary, he even became good friends with Colonel Sanders himself.
Never one to sit still, after retiring from politics and the dairy business, he re-invented himself in 1980 and founded Willard’s Adventure Club.
His love of the outdoors and hiking and backpacking took him around the world, leading hundreds of hikes over the next 30 plus years.
The conquest of Mt. Kilimanjaro on his 79th birthday was one of his proudest accomplishments. The Rocky Mountains, the Yukon, Peru, Nepal, the Grand Canyon and New Zealand were no match for this hardcore backpacker, who was nicknamed “Titanium Man”, no doubt for his bionic parts.
Mount Washington was ascended more than 50 times, and in his 88th year, he completed the 2200 mile Appalachian Trail, according to his obituary.
In his later years, the Barrie YMCA became a regular hangout, where he could often be seen exercising. According to his obituary, he was working out there two days before his final visit to the hospital. He passed away at Hospice Simcoe after a short illness on November 25th, 2018, just two months after his 99th birthday.
Born a Mennonite, his life reflected the work ethic and values of his upbringing.
Never one to sit still, he was a mover and a shaker, a doer, an inspiration to us all.
He was never one to let the world go by around him.
He wanted to be a part of that world, and to leave his mark, his impression.
Well, Willard, you have done that.
Your memory will live on in the annals of Barrie’s history, forever.
And your hand print will always be there to offer a “high five” of encouragement, to anyone who needs it.